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From an IMU Medical Degree to a General Surgeon in East Malaysia

28 Nov 2017

Pui Wei Chieng, an IMU alumnus is currently a General Surgeon at Kapit Hospital. He shares with us his journey from his undergraduate studies to where he is now. “I graduated with a MBBS from IMU batch M202/C105 in 2007. Naturally, I applied to work in my home state which is in Sarawak. I was posted to Sibu, Sarawak for housemanship with a great bunch of classmates, mostly from West Malaysia. The six of us were eager to serve and learn more about medicine in real life! Housemanship was tough but I must say that IMU teaching programme especially the senior clerkship year prepared us well to face the real world. We could cope fast, simulate what we learnt and I felt that the initial struggle would soon be an enjoyment. All the notes and classes made sense in daily practice. During that one year, I completed Surgery, Paediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) postings with great relief thinking that housemanship was the worst nightmare years for a doctor.

Despite the busy working life and on calls, my friends and I kept in touch quite often and gathered for late dinner or supper. We also learnt the local Iban language and visited the long houses during the Gawai Harvest Festival. It was truly a new experience for everyone even for me as a Sarawakian!

Soon, I became Medical Officer (MO) in O&G and medical for about 6 months before applying to do surgery in mid of 2009. For me, surgery is my main interest as it makes more sense when I can see directly one’s illness and “fix” them. Moreover, I like practicality and gadgets. Not to mention, charismatic lecturers like Prof Dato’ Kandasami and A/Prof Yushak who are my role models. I am impressed by their in depth knowledge, clinical skills and great leadership qualities. They are such dedicated yet humble educators. As for my friends, they had also moved on to become specialists in their own fields. During my 3 years as surgical MO in Sibu Hospital, I am glad to have worked with great leaders and supportive colleagues who endlessly strive to provide the best care and share their knowledge despite the limitations faced. My specialists and colleagues are great mentors. I had lots of guidance, motivations and hands on experience from this magnificent team. With their encouragement and tutoring, I completed my Membership of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons (Edinburgh) exam in 2012. Then, I enrolled into the Masters of Surgery to further my surgical training under UKM in 2012. I was posted to Sarawak General Hospital, Kuching and HUKM, Cheras for the 4-year-programme. I gained even more experience and skills especially in sub-specialty attachments. It was really fascinating to work with different consultants and gather more knowledge and exposure. Life as a trainee was many times tougher than housemanship where I need to learn to analyse cases, make major clinical decision, write research papers and improve surgical skills. Achieving all these and juggling time as a father with 2 kids at the same time is definitely not easy. Luckily, I have a supportive family and good friends who encouraged me when I felt like giving up. I passed my Masters exit exam in 2016. It was the one of sweetest moments in my life as I can now proclaim to be a surgeon!

My life as a surgeon brought me back to Sibu, Sarawak. I served here for 6 months for my gazettement. Currently, I am posted to Kapit district in Sarawak since July 2017 to head the surgical service here. Kapit is a unique town in central Sarawak. It is located in the middle of Rajang River and only accessible by boat or helicopter! The nearest town is 3 hours away by express boat. Working here require huge reliance on clinical skills as there is no radiological specialty service.

It is my hope that by sharing my experience, I will be able to encourage young doctors to become future surgeons. I have to say that it is not easy to become a surgeon. One has to be ready to sacrifice, learn from mistakes and persevere to achieve their dreams. I wished all the students and young doctors the very best in their journey and hopefully they will share their successful journey here in the future as well.”

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